Opinion: Looking for emotional support? Do not take hamster | Arts + Culture

Peanut, a 6-month-old hamster from California, roams around his cage in journalist Haley Yarborough’s apartment at ROAM Student Living in downtown Missoula on April 16. Peanut got its name from its tiny size when Yarborough first bought it.

I’m here to warn you about something really bad, dangerous, and possibly the very cause of Earth’s sixth mass extinction: hamsters.

Don’t be fooled by their furry, marshmallow exterior. Behind those piercing eyes is a devil in disguise, complete with extremely acidic piss, sharp male teeth, and the acrobatic abilities of a spider monkey.

I know, it’s terrifying – especially when the enemy is sleeping on your bedside table, planning their next escape (or next kill). A few months ago, I drove my hamster, Peanut, from California to Montana with the intention of having emotional support during my rigorous spring semester. Let’s just say I don’t know how something so small can be so painful.

Their friendliness and sympathy as so-called “starter pets” is a joke. They’re evil, conniving little bastards with a roster full of reasons why they do more harm than good.

First reason: they are cunning escape artists.

In the short period of a few months, Peanut escaped five times. The first time she managed to crawl through a small hole in the top of her cage and spent the next four days hiding in an inaccessible corner of my bathroom, screaming. I tried everything to get her out, from humane mousetraps to carrots covered in peanut butter to the long straws I used to push her behind.

Eventually I was smart enough to call maintenance and then they literally had to rip up half of my bathroom cabinet to find it. When she emerged, screaming, with matted fur and a wild look in her eyes, one of the maintenance men – a tall, burly guy – told me he’s “not picking it up”.

Even with a reinforced, tape-covered cage, Peanut escaped four more times (including one to the same spot, where I had to lift a loose board with my bare hands). What pissed me off wasn’t the escape itself, it was that she has a better home than me and still has the AUDACITY to escape.

Second reason: they are nocturnal.

At least a few times a night, I wake up to the roar of Peanut running on his wheel. It’s like a car engine running next to my ear, and no matter how hard I blast the soothing sounds of my nature, the squeaky wheel is etched indelibly into my brain. Lately, I gently removed said squeaky wheel at night and put it in her ball during the evening.

My method does not work. Although hamsters can adapt to cage life and alter their natural life rhythm slightly, you cannot make them daytime. The devil incarnate sits in his ball half the time, shit. By the time the night comes, it’s like she’s on crack, making as many sounds as she can to drive me to the brink of mental insanity.

Third reason: they are prone to health problems.

Right after I retrieved Peanut from my bathroom wall, I drove her to Animal Blessing Pet Hospital to treat her for something the vet called a form of “wet tail.” I won’t go into nasty details, but Peanut basically had a parasite in his intestinal tract that was affecting his digestion. After the vet performed a pseudo-surgery, I paid $90 for antibiotics to treat the disease and had to spend a full month giving her medication through a syringe (she didn’t did not appreciate the effort).

This, unfortunately, is nothing unusual. “Wet tail” is the most common disease in hamsters, followed by other digestive disorders, continued incisor growth, pneumonia and skin problems. With proper food, housing, and enough exercise, a hamster is less likely to suffer from these diseases, but they are not free from them.

Hamsters are not beginner pets. They take time and care – and sometimes a lot more money than expected.


Peanut takes his pink ball for a quick spin around the apartment. When Peanut isn’t on the go, she likes to snack, according to Yarborough. Contrary to its name, Peanuts favorite snack is sunflower seeds.


There are wicked people; then there are the evil hamsters.

When you look into the piercing, bottomless eyes of a hamster, you are looking through a window into its non-existent soul. Judging by the way Peanut looks at me, I’m pretty sure she’s plotting my murder. She is nothing less than a bloodthirsty killer, who will bite my finger off without hesitation.

The animals are so bad, in fact, that you often can’t leave a male with a female alone in a cage without them fighting to the death (or mating and eating their babies).

Oh, and also the hamster piss is SUPER sour and flavorful. If left for only a week, it can harden, stain, soak and even erode plastic. I’m surprised there hasn’t been a horror movie about these murderous acid-peeping rodents.

Moral of the story: DON’T WAIT FOR A FUCKING HAMSTER, especially if you don’t want to get murdered in your sleep (but don’t worry, the squeaky wheel will keep you alert).

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